This article was originally written for the security industry, yet it equally applies to any B2B company. The critical role of security in the 21st century is one of protection behind the scenes – where systems and services are often designed to blend into the background.
As any B2B organisation, whenever you’re among your competitors or in front of potential customers, your continued success relies on making sure you stand out. After all, no-one will buy from your company if they don’t know you exist, remember what you do or feel that it will benefit them in some way.
Without changing anything about your services or products, branding provides a rare opportunity to build the recognition and long-term memorability that create favourability among today’s industry influencers, specifiers and purchasing groups.
I’ve spent more than two decades working with B2B organisations of all shapes and sizes whose role is largely in the background – using branding techniques to help them make their value visible. It’s involved shining a light on a diverse range of topics: everything from the unsung heroes that maintain biosciences laboratory equipment to the cutting-edge (and highly covert) security features of currency.
Here are five tried-and-tested techniques guaranteed to boost your visibility…
1 Look the business A few years ago I came across a company still using the logo they’d originally created back in the 80s using photocopier, scissors and Sellotape. In situations where your rivals look more contemporary and professional (and there’s no clear difference in your message or offer) potential customers will think twice about investing in you. And it’s hard for employees to take pride in a company whose brand identity seems to have been based on picking random fonts from MS Word. It’s deeper than simply styling: how you’re branded can be a real barrier to further growth.
2 Talk their language Visibility isn’t purely about visual appearance. For example: in our search-driven world it’s never been more important to position and present your brand with phrases buyers use to describe what they’re looking for, rather than niche industry-based “solutions”. It’s also easier to communicate the value you bring when you frame it in familiar terms. In the consumer space for example, the packaging for JOHNSON’S Baby Shampoo doesn’t mention that it’s “Clinically tested during human ocular studies performed by a board-certified ophthalmologist” Instead it appeals to parents’ needs more emotively with its ‘NO MORE TEARS®’ formula.
3 Set judgement criteria (it’s the new USP) Achieving true difference these days is hard. Maintaining it is even harder. Especially when rivals can quickly copy what you do, and customers have a global marketplace to choose from. With branding you can use a big idea to quickly wrap your offer in a compelling logic. In the past we helped an industrial client shift the buying conversation away from the capabilities of advanced engineering to talk about an alternative that had no moving parts – and therefore fewer failure points. And we’ve recently turned a product’s two-year battery life from a potential downside into part of a new industry-wide approach. By setting your own criteria, you define how rivals should be judged too, so you’re more likely to win the argument, and ultimately win the business.
4 Aim to be memorable from day one Many new products and services are branded to visually ‘fit’ into a sector. As a result, competitors can end up looking similar to each other. But as humans we’re hardwired to notice and recall what’s different – it’s part of our survival instinct. In a sea of brand sameness make sure you’re remembered by being disruptive wherever you can; using less obvious colours, shapes, names, image content, messages etc. One tip for standing out is to brand yourself to look more like your customers, rather than your competitors.
5 Stay top of mind The B2B buying cycle can be a particularly drawn-out process. And perhaps unsurprisingly spending money with you isn’t at the top of every company’s list of priorities. There’s competitive advantage in finding creative ways to make contact, and reasons to reconnect with previously-interested parties. For example, we once created ‘birthday cards’ for scientific equipment at the end of its warranty period. And our friends over at Emberson LeadGen are pretty good at helping companies stay in touch too, while staying on the right side of GDPR legislation…
The great thing about these five techniques is that they’re all infinitely do-able today – individually, and at any scale. You don’t have to be a giant international conglomerate or a household name to gain business benefits from branding.